Apple is systematically moving towards the task of maximizing the integration of all its devices into a single ecosystem. New features allow you to make friends devices based on different operating systems. First we saw a feature called Sidecar, and a little later Universal Control was introduced. Both of these options offer cross-device sharing, but there are differences between the features. In this article, we will talk about how Universal Control differs from Sidecar.
♥ BY TOPIC: Startup on Mac, or how to add (remove) programs to start automatically when macOS boots.
What is Universal Control?
Starting with iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3, Apple is offering Universal Control (Detailed View), which allows you to control multiple Macs and iPads with the same mouse and keyboard.
With Universal Control, you can use virtually the same cursor and keyboard on any nearby Mac or iPad that’s signed in to your iCloud account. The feature works between multiple Macs, and between multiple Macs and iPads within 10 meters of each other.
♥ BY TOPIC: 20 Mac Safari Hotkeys Everyone Should Know.
How is Universal Control different from Sidecar?
With Universal Control, you can actually link multiple Macs and iPads together and use their screens to work with the same keyboard and cursor. For example, if you have a MacBook Pro and an iPad on your desk, you can use the MacBook Pro trackpad on an iPad by simply swiping your finger, and the Mac keyboard will become the iPad’s input device. The same applies to an iPad that has a keyboard connected to it.
But Sidecar (detailed review) works quite differently. The feature was introduced in 2019 as part of macOS Catalina. Sidecar lets you use your iPad as a secondary display for your Mac.
Only one iPad can be used to either mirror the contents of your Mac’s display, or turn the tablet into a secondary display for more screen real estate in macOS. Universal control does not expand displaying your Mac’s screen on an iPad, so if you want your Mac’s screen content to be displayed on an iPad, you need to use Sidecar.
Note that while Universal Control doesn’t just let you use your Mac’s keyboard and trackpad to navigate your iPad, the feature also runs on two different operating systems – macOS and iPadOS, which defines some of its features. For example, if you’re dragging a photo from a Mac to an iPad, you’ll first need to open the Photos app in iPadOS to transfer the photo there. It can’t just be placed on the home screen.
In contrast, Sidecar is designed to create a secondary Mac display. The iPad works like any other secondary display you can use with your Mac to add more space to your macOS desktop. Using Sidecar, you can drag windows from Mac to iPad and vice versa, and interact with both spaces using your Mac’s trackpad.
iPad Pro display shows macOS in Sidecar mode
♥ BY TOPIC: Program stuck on Mac (macOS): How to force close? 5 ways.
Important Features and Limitations
Universal Control does not require complex configuration and works almost automatically, although there are several controls that you can configure, as well as completely disable. For example, you can prevent your Mac from automatically reconnecting to any nearby Mac or iPad that you have previously connected to (detailed).
Please note that Universal Control requires at least one Mac to function. For example, you can’t just use a feature between two iPads. However, you can use Universal Management between Macs without the iPad. Aside from the feature of using at least one Mac, there doesn’t seem to be a limit to how many devices you can control with a single keyboard and trackpad/mouse. Universal Control is limited to mouse/trackpad and keyboard support. For example, you can’t use Apple Pencil in Universal Management.
With Sidecar, you can use an Apple Pencil (1st or 2nd generation depending on your iPad) as an alternative to your mouse for clicks, selections, and other on-screen macOS control tasks. When using Sidecar, you may think of the Apple Pencil as a replacement for your mouse or trackpad.
In apps like Photoshop and Illustrator, you can do a lot of cool stuff with the Apple Pencil and Sidecar. You can draw directly in Photoshop or other similar Mac applications, which will turn your iPad into a drawing tablet for your computer, not unlike a Wacom drawing tablet.
Sidecar can also optionally add a touch bar to the bottom of the iPad, which is similar to the touch bar on some MacBook Pro models.
Here are the main features of the functions:
- Works as a secondary Mac display.
- Can mirror content from Mac.
- Expands the macOS desktop space.
- Supports Apple Pencil as an input device.
- Offers additional Touch Bar controls.
- Requires manual configuration.
- Devices connect to each other either wired or wirelessly.
- Limited to one connected iPad.
- Manages multiple Macs and iPads.
- Works on macOS and iPadOS.
- Has some drag and drop restrictions.
- Does not support Apple Pencil.
- Requires at least one Mac.
- Does not support macOS trackpad gestures on iPad.
- Works automatically.
- Devices connect to each other only over a wireless network.
♥ BY TOPIC: Hidden files on Mac: how to hide files and folders in macOS from outsiders: 3 ways.
Which is better to use – Sidecar or Universal control?
Do you need to use Sidecar or Universal Control on Mac and iPad? It really boils down to your personal work scenario.
If you just want to expand your macOS desktop space with your iPad’s screen and don’t intend to use iPadOS, then the answer is simple – use Sidecar. If you want to use your iPad and Apple Pencil to draw or illustrate something you’re working on in a Mac app, then Sidecar is the way to go.
If you want to control multiple Macs and iPads using the same input devices, and you’re willing to compromise on compatibility restrictions between macOS and iPadOS (such as drag and drop), then Universal Control is the perfect solution.
♥ BY TOPIC: Launchpad on Mac: what it is and how to set it up so that you want to use it.
Can I use Universal Control and Sidecar at the same time?
If you have multiple iPads and Macs, you can use Sidecar with Universal Control at the same time and enjoy the power of both features.
For example, you can connect your Mac to one iPad via Sidecar to get extra screen real estate on macOS, and at the same time, you can control a second iPad or Mac with your primary Mac’s keyboard and trackpad.